Digital transformation is no longer a niche interest that HR can ignore

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 11 May 2016

Professionals must make more effective use of technology but still maintain the ‘human’ side, say experts

HR departments must make effective use of new technology, as digital transformation is no longer a niche interest for a handful of industries.
 
That’s the finding of a recent study by Deloitte, Changing the role of people management in the digital era, which suggests that HR in the Middle East is lagging behind in this respect.
 
“Digitisation is beginning to advance among organisations in the Middle East, with most consumer-oriented industries having adopted some aspect of digital operation. But there are still plenty of organisations in this region yet to take their first steps into the digital world,” says Hichem Maya, head of business transformation services at SAP EMEA.
 
“According to the MENAT Business Outlook Survey by the Economist Corporate Network, 60 per cent of executives in the region agree that technology penetration supports growth, but only one-third have adopted consumer-driven technologies. That means a lot of organisations need to think clearly about their strategies going forward,” adds Maya.
 
“The reality of digitisation can sometimes be one step too far away from where [HR leaders] are,” says Ben Davies, managing director EMEA ChapmanCG, an executive search firm specialised in HR. “Instead there is a common trend of organisations still trying to wrestle with the basics. HR transformation, improving business acumen in HR and analysing the data being inputted into systems is more common.
 
“In an increasingly competitive market such as the Middle East, some firms are investing the most in their recruitment platform and digitalising it. Integrating applications, online assessments and virtual video interviews into one easy to use process is saving time and money,” he adds.
 
The Deloitte report found that organisations need to restructure to enable a digital transformation, and the leadership team should question what digital means to the organisation and how it will fit into the overall business model.
 
Organisations in the region have so far had mixed success with digitalising HR. "Telco and technology firms lead the way with their ability to make use of internal support and resources," says Davies. "Providing anytime access to employees or harnessing 360 feedback on an app that all employees have on their phones or devices is making these organisations more attractive as an employer – and helping HR departments to run more efficiently.”
 
But fully embracing technology does pose challenges. “How does one maintain the 'human' in human resources, while achieving the efficiency and edge that technology provides?” says Benito Seelan, recruitment consultant and manager of HRMS for The Thought Factory “That is the biggest challenge faced by the HR department: to maintain an ideal balance. To be digitalised, and yet human.”